Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Lawtell, Louisiana: Zydeco History: Richard's Club

Former Richard's Club, now Miller's Zydeco Hall of Fame, Lawtell, Louisiana. 2015.

".... for a few years, it felt as if the earth shook under Richard’s Club ..."

Richard's Club is now Miller's Zydeco Hall of Fame, but back in the day, it was one of the epicenters of Zydeco. Before that, it was on the Chitlin Circuit, hosting Big Mama Thornton, Fats Domino, and Ben E. King. B.B. King played here, and so did John Lee Hooker. When Zydeco became the club's focus, Boozoo Chavis, Clifton Chenier, Beau Jocque, and John Delafose reigned.

Former Richard's Club, now Miller's Zydeco Hall of Fame, Lawtell, Louisiana. 2015.

Some descriptors: 

From Bob Kiser in 2006: "The definitive rural Zydeco Club: unpolished; spartan; smoky; and dimly lit. .... Smooth and springy dance floor with low ceilings. ..... Ladies not prepared to dance close and get sweaty should pass this up." 

From a 2008 tripadvisor article: "Located on the highway a short distance from Lafayette in Lawtell, Richard's is a road house that features some of the best zydeco music in the region.  Things don't start heating up until after 10:30.   The music is lively and you will feel very welcomed by everyone, even if you are tourists."  

Richard's Club poster, October 1976, Lawtell, Louisiana. Source: Jean Lafitte Acadian Cultural Center, Lafayette, Louisiana.

From a 2008 Ind article, The House That Zydeco Built, by Nathan Stubbs: "People of all ages, and from all across the country, hang out on tailgates in the parking lot and around the front step’s of the Zydeco Hall of Fame. A giant smoker churns out barbecue pork sandwiches, while a film crew from Denmark conducts interviews. About 40 people are lined up outside the front door waiting to get in, but the line doesn’t move. The doorman’s not letting anybody through. The club reached its capacity crowd of about 350 an hour ago. By night’s end, 620 people will have passed through the club’s front doors. ... "

From a 2015 article on WXPN, by Scott Billington:  "Historians can look back to several junctures of time and place in American music when it was clear that something significant was happening. ... For zydeco, I would argue that it was Southwest Louisiana in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when Boozoo Chavis came roaring back onto the scene at Richard’s Club in Lawtell. .... Richard’s Club, a long, low-ceilinged building that seemed in danger of shaking loose from its foundations when the music got loud and the dancers filled the floor. Shiny pickup trucks packed the parking lot and the shoulders of Highway 190, while Creole couples made the scene dressed in matching Western outfits with pressed jeans. Boozoo’s simple, relentlessly driving music was a sensation. .."

Richard's Club plays a role in documentaries and books, such as:

1994: Movie: Kingdom of Zydeco, directed by Robert Mugge
1998: Book: Kingdom of Zydeco, by Michael Tisserand
2015: Public TV series (WXPN in Philadelphia): Zydeco Crossroads

Here's a song performed by Beau Jocques, called "Richard's Club:"

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